1922 February 11

“Indecency Flaunting as Art:” Censor Condemns Photograph


The head of the New York City Committee of Fourteen, an anti-vice organization, on this day blamed the “moral backwash” from Prohibition for inhibiting efforts to suppress indecency. He cited the recent failed attempt to suppress the display in a store window of a photograph of a woman dressed only in a “fishnet.” A local court found the photograph “chaste and artistic.” The New York City Society for the Suppression of Vice was temporarily abandoning its crusade against “bold” photographs to concentrate on “double entendres” and “rough jokes” in small magazin

The New York City Society for the Suppression of Vice, arguably the most active anti-“indecency” organization of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, had been founded by Anthony Comstock, author of the Comstock Act, enacted on March 3, 1873. After Comstock’s death, he was followed as head of the Society by John Sumner on October 3, 1915.

Learn more: Paul Boyer, Purity in Print: The Vice-Society Movement and Book Censorship in America (1968)

Read: Jay A. Gertzman,  Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica, 1920-1940  (1999)

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